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8 Signs that your Gut Bacteria are Out of Whack!

Every day, there are new studies coming out exploring the connection between human gut bacterial populations, and practically every other aspect of human health. Most people don’t realize it yet, but what you eat and how you live will change the makeup of your gut bacteria. This also means that if you can change your gut, you can change your life.

The first step is realizing that something is wrong with your gut bacteria in the first place. So what can you do to determine if there might be an issue with the population of bacteria in your gut.

There are more than 100 trillion bacterial cells in the average human gut, and they have a greater impact on our health than medical experts and researchers previously realized. There are GOOD gut bacteria and BAD gut bacterial species. Good gut bacterial species help to improve our digestion, strengthen the immune system and aid in the manufacture of vitamins that our body needs. Bad gut bacteria can cause skin conditions, nightmares, brain symptoms, autoimmune conditions, detoxification problems and a whole host of functional issues that could eventually lead to chronic diseases.

Here are 8 signs to watch for to determine if your gut bacteria are imbalanced.

  1. Digestive Issues

The first and most likely symptom that we find in patients with gut bacterial imbalances are digestive problems. Our gut bacteria are very important to our ability to break down and digest foods, in order to get our required nutrients. The issue is that an imbalance can lead to slowing or quickening of the digestive sequence. These can lead to digestive symptoms such as:

  • Gas
  • Bloating
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease (Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis)
  • Heartburn/ ”acid reflux”
  1. Inability to Lose weight

Certain gut bacteria have been shown to exist in patients that have more trouble losing weight. I personally went through this issue as my imbalanced gut flora was contributing to unhealthy food cravings, fatigue, and tiredness. Through laboratory testing, it was determined that the balance of my bacterial populations was a contributing cause to my weight gain and my inability to lose weight. Once I was able to rebalance my flora, the weight fell off and I burned off a total of 75 lbs while improving so many other aspects of my life.

  1. Mental Issues

Did you know that imbalances in your gut can affect the health and function of your brain? Your gut bacteria actually produce a significant amount of neurotransmitters, the chemicals used by your brain to communicate between cells. There is a new trend being researched currently, that people with certain patterns of mental dysfunction also tend to have disturbances in their gut bacteria. These mental symptoms can include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Brain Fog
  • Autism
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
  1. Vitamin and Mineral Deficiencies

We absorb most of our vitamins and minerals through our gut, and these important molecules then travel to our cells through our bloodstream. An imbalance in gut bacteria means that your body will actually have a harder time absorbing these essential vitamins and minerals such as:

  • Vitamin D
  • Vitamin K
  • Vitamin B12
  • Calcium
  • Magnesium
  1. Excessive Antibiotic Use

When they are used correctly, antibiotics are one of the greatest innovations in modern medicine, however, in our current circumstances, we are being prescribed antibiotics at an irresponsible rate. They are being used indiscriminately on factory-farmed animals and some doctors even prescribe them for viral infections (which is quite useless). Antibiotics are great for wiping out bad bacterial species, but they are also good at eliminating good bacteria in the gut which we now know are essential for our health. It is important to intervene on your own to help replenish good bacterial species if you have had recent or longer-term antibiotic use.

  1. Inability to Deal with Stress

Stress can be good and bad. It can build you up or tear you down. If you are the type of person that has trouble dealing with stress, meaning that you become more anxious and have increased blood pressure, then that negative stress can have profound effects on your gut bacteria. Unmanaged stress raises our Cortisol stress hormone levels, which tells our gut not to work correctly. Under stress, our bodies send more energy to our muscles, and less blood to our internal organs. Digestion is not considered an important issue when you are running away from a lion or dealing with an annoying client at the end of your work day. If you have not taken steps to manage your internal stress levels, you are far more likely to have an unhealthy gut flora.

  1. Skin Conditions

Your gut is an extension of your skin, or depending on your perspective, your skin is an extension of your gut. There is a misguided but common idea that the symptoms of a condition must appear in the same spot as the problem itself. This is not true as we now know that an issue in your gut will often appear on your skin as a sign that something is not right inside. Unbalanced gut flora have been implicated and proven to be contributing to multiple skin conditions including:

  • Acne
  • Rosacea
  • Psoriasis
  • Eczema
  • Dry, scaly skin
  1. Autoimmune Diseases

There is more and more research coming out each week showing that our gut is ground zero for immune system balance. We have immune cells present in every millimeter of our gut, protecting us from negative outside influence. As we continue to expose these cells to environmental toxins, herbicides, pesticides, plastics and other harmful food-based proteins, we are over-stimulating our immune cells to the point that they can’t keep up. Eventually, they start attacking anything that looks similar to these toxins, which often leads to autoimmune diseases. These conditions can include:

  • Psoriasis
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis
  • Sjogren’s Syndrome
  • Systemic Lupus Erythematosus
  • Ulcerative Colit
  • Crohn’s Disease
  • Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Dementia
  • Cushing’s Disease
  • Asthma
  • Vasculitis
  • Type 1 Diabetes

WHAT CAN I DO ABOUT IT?

So now that we know how to spot potential issues with gut flora balance, what can we do about it? There are a few easy steps that we can all take to help balance your gut bacteria.

  1. Avoid Chemical and Environmental Toxins

Throw away your plastic food containers and recycle your plastic water bottles. Plastics are a major source of environmental and chemical toxins including BPA. Eating organic foods will also help to eliminate the ingestion of herbicide and pesticide residues like Glyphosate, which has recently been linked to cancer. Eat a clean, whole food, organic diet and use glass containers and glass bottles to avoid chemicals that are constantly around us.

  1. Eliminate Toxic Foods and Medications

Certain foods tend to lead to increased inflammation in the gut and can produce imbalances in gut bacteria. In fact, having these foods can lead to cravings for unhealthy food on an ongoing basis. The foods to avoid include grains, conventional, grain-fed dairy, sugars and unhealthy oils. Its also a good idea to avoid other modern toxins that are always available such as Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) like Ibuprofen and Acetaminophen and Antibiotics.

  1. Eat Fermented Foods

Fermented foods are a proactive way to encourage good gut bacteria to grow. These foods were very common in our ancestors’ diets and are full of good gut bacteria. Great options include:

  • Kimchi
  • Sauerkraut
  • Lacto-fermented fruits and vegetables
  • Non-pasteurized yogurt, cheese, and kefir
  1. Take a GOOD QUALITY Probiotic Supplement

Our ancestors were not as concerned with hygiene as we are. They used to play in the soil and other “dirty” things that they encountered. A good probiotic can help make up for the hygienic practices that we use on a daily basis. There are a wide range of probiotic supplements available and here are some guidelines to use when choosing a good probiotic:

  • Stay away from the cheapo bins – you get what you pay for
  • Make sure they are potent, a minimum of 10 Billion cultures per dose for regular probiotics and a minimum of 3 Billion cultures per dose for spore-based probiotics
  • Look into supplements that contain strains of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium
  1. Manage your Stress

One of the most powerful things you can do besides changing your diet and taking probiotics is to take time and learn how to handle daily stressors that will inevitably come up. There is certainly no one-size-fits-all method to this, but the key is to find something you enjoy and stick with it. Some great options include:

  • Getting a weekly massage
  • Yoga
  • Weight-lifting
  • Meditation
  • Taking a bath
  • Deep breathing exercises
  • Going for a run or a bike ride
  • Watching the sunrise
  • Periodic vacations
  • Getting a good night’s rest

These practices can all help you reduce inflammation, lower cortisol levels and lead to an overall improvement in gut function. Taking time for yourself is essential not only for your mind to recharge but for your body to recover from the constant stress we place on it.

Making these changes are the first step in re-balancing your gut bacteria. Some people may need further assistance and testing to determine why issues can exist or persist. If you would like to find out more about our Functional Medicine Program at The Living Proof Institute you can visit www.becomeproof.com or book a free 15-minute phone consultation at www.iamproof.com.

Wishing you great gut health,

Dr. Navaz Habib

www.drhabib.ca

19 Ways to Activate your Vagus Nerve

Living a life of stress and constant mental stimulation can lead us down a path of symptoms and medical conditions related to high stress. These people are often dealing with fatigue, food sensitivities, anxiety, poor digestion, brain fog and poor sleep quality. Those who suffer with these symptoms often suffer from lower Vagal Tone, meaning that they have a lower ability of the vagus nerve to be activated and perform its functions. So what is the Vagus Nerve?

The Vagus Nerve is the brain’s method of controlling the parasympathetic nervous system – the rest and digest system. It is not the only nerve controlling our ability to decrease stressors, but it is by far the single most important nerve due to its far reaching effects. The word “vagus” means wanderer, as this nerve wanders throughout the body to many important organs and imparts signals from the brain regarding their level of function.

This nerve connects the brain to the gut (intestines and stomach), heart, liver, pancreas, gallbladder, kidney, ureter, spleen, lungs, sex organs (in females), neck (pharynx, larynx and esophagus), ears and the tongue. No other nerve in the body has such a broad and far reaching effect as the Vagus Nerve.

The function that it imparts is extensive.

  • In the brain itself, it helps control anxiety and mood.
  • In the gut, it increases stomach acidity, gut flow/motility and other digestive enzyme production.
    • Low stomach acid is a major source of gut-related health conditions so an underactive vagus nerve is correlated to the root cause of many health conditions.
  • In the heart, it controls heart rate variability, heart rate and blood pressure.
  • In the pancreas it controls blood sugar balance and digestive enzymes.
  • In the liver it controls bile production and detoxification through hepatic phase 1 and phase 2 conjugation.
  • In the gall bladder it controls bile release to help break down fats.
  • In the kidneys, it promotes general function including water balance, glucose control and sodium excretion which helps control blood pressure.
  • In the bladder it controls voiding of urine.
  • In the spleen it helps to reduce inflammation.
  • In the sex organs it helps to control fertility and sexual pleasure including orgasms.
  • In the mouth and tongue, it helps to control ability to taste and saliva production through salivary gland control.
  • In the eyes, it activates tear production through the lacrimal glands.

Vagus nerve stimulation has the potential to help those suffering from various health conditions, including but certainly not limited to anxiety disorders, heart disease, some forms of cancer, poor circulation, leaky gut syndrome, alzheimer’s, memory and mood disorders, migraine’s and headaches, fibromyalgia, obesity, tinnitus, addiction, autism and autoimmune conditions.

So how can we stimulate this nerve to ensure that this nerve is functioning optimally? Here are 19 ways you can exercise and stimulate your vagus nerve:

 

1. Cold Showers

Any acute cold exposure will increase vagus nerve stimulation. Studies have shown that when your body adjusts to cold, your fight or flight (sympathetic) system declines and your rest and digest (parasympathetic) system increases, which is mediated by the vagus nerve. Other options are to dip your face in cold water, drink colder fluids and you can even graduate to using a cryohelmet and cold vest. Cold showers are accessible and very effective.

 

2. Singing or chanting

Singing, humming, mantra chanting, hymn singing and upbeat energetic singing all increase heart rate variability (HRV) in slightly different ways. Singing at the top of your lungs (like you mean it) makes you work the muscles at the back of your throat, which helps activate the vagus nerve. The next time someone catches you singing along to the radio while driving your car, tell them you are just exercising and activating your Vagus nerve.

 

3. Gargling

Gargling with a glass of water each morning will help to contract the muscles in the back of your throat. This in turn helps to activate the Vagus nerve and also stimulates the digestive tract. Keep a glass next to your sink in the washroom as a daily reminder to perform this exercise. You will know you are doing it properly if you gargle to the point of tearing in the eyes (another vagus nerve response). This exercise has been found to be the most readily accessible and easiest to implement in daily life.

 

4. Yoga

Yoga is a parasympathetic activation exercise that improves digestion, blood flow, lung capacity and function. A 12 week yoga intervention showed significantly improved mood and anxiety levels when compared with a control group that performed simple walking exercises. This study showed that levels of GABA, a neurotransmitter associated with mood and anxiety, were increased in those that performed these exercises. Lower mood and higher anxiety is associated with low GABA levels, while an increase in these levels improves mood and decreases anxiety and stress levels. (Reference)

 

5. Meditation

There are two different types of meditation that have been shown to increase vagal tone including Loving-Kindness meditation as well as Guided Mindfulness Meditation. These have been measured by heart rate variability (Reference). It has also been shown that the chanting of “Om” stimulates the vagus nerve.

 

6. Deep Breathing Exercises

Slow and deep breathing also stimulates the vagus nerve. The baroreceptors, or pressure receptors in your neck and heart detect blood pressure and transmit the signal to your brain. This signal then in turn activates the vagus nerve, to help lower blood pressure and heart rate. This results in a lower sympathetic “fight or flight” response, as well as a higher parasympathetic “rest and digest” response. Slow breathing helps to increase the sensitivity of these receptors, increasing vagal activation.

Here’s an important tip: Breathe slowly, having your belly rise and fall. This is the intended action of your Diaphragm muscle. Your shoulders and Traps should not be moving much at all with each breath as these actions are controlled by secondary respiratory muscles. The more your belly expands and contracts, the deeper you are breathing.

 

7. Laughter

Laughter is the best medicine. This can actually be true in the case of increased vagus nerve activity as laughter has been shown to increase heart rate variability in a study comparing a laughter yoga participants (Reference).

Laughter has also been found to be beneficial for cognitive function and protects against heart disease. It increases beta endorphins, nitric oxide levels and benefits the vascular system. It has also been shown that people put in humorous situations show a lower cortisol stress level overall.

 

8. Probiotics

Your gut is connected to your brain, and one of the most clear connections is through the Vagus nerve. Within our gut, we have a population of normal and good bacteria and yeast called the Microbiome. These organisms have a direct effect on our brains as a significant percentage of our neurotransmitters including Serotonin, GABA and Dopamine are produced through actions of these bacteria helping to break down our foods. Often times we have less good bacteria and more bad bacteria within this population leading to poor neurochemistry and decreased vagal tone.

Probiotics are a good option to help promote the good bacteria and other organisms while helping to crowd out the bad bacteria, parasites and yeast.

 

9. Light Exercise

Mild exercise has been shown to stimulate gut flow and gastric motility (peristalsis) which is mediated by the vagus nerve. This in turn means that mild low level exercise can stimulate the vagus nerve (Reference)

 

10. Fasting

Intermittent fasting helps to increase high frequency heart rate variability in animals, which is a marker of vagal tone. When you fast, part of the decrease in metabolism is mediated by the vagus nerve as it detects a decline in blood glucose levels and a decrease of mechanical and chemical stimuli from the gut (Reference).

 

11. Massages

Pressure massages can activate the vagus nerve. These massages are used to help infants to gain weight by stimulating gut function, which is largely mediated by activating the vagus nerve. Foot Massages can also increase vagus nerve activity, heart rate variability and lower your heart rate and blood pressure, all of which decrease risk of heart disease.

 

12. Tai Chi

Tai Chi has been shown to increase heart rate variability in patients suffering from coronary artery disease which again is mediated through vagus nerve activation (Reference).

 

13. Fish Oil – Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Fish Oils – EPA and DHA are capable of increasing heart rate variability as well as lowering heart rate.

 

14. Tongue depressors

Tongue depressors stimulate the gag reflex. These function in a similar mechanism to gargling or singing loudly as they exercise the reflexes that are mediated by the vagus nerve.

 

15. Acupuncture

Traditional acupuncture treatment as well as auricular acupuncture (of the ear) stimulate vagus nerve activity. The effects of acupuncture are becoming increasingly well known and you can ask most patients who have had this treatment about the calming effect and restful feelings that they have following an acupuncture treatment. I know many of my patients absolutely love it.

 

16. Serotonin

Serotonin, the mood and happiness neurotransmitter, is capable of activating the vagus nerve through various receptors, which are mediated by 5HT1A, 5-HT2, 5-HT3, 5-HT-4 and possibly 5-HT6 receptors. If you have been found to be deficient in serotonin levels, 5-HTP is a good supplement to help increase them.

 

17. Tensing stomach muscles

Bearing down as if to make a bowel movement requires your body to be in a rest and digest state. This is why many people feel much more relaxed following a bowel movement. Tensing the core muscles by performing abdominal bracing exercises can help to promote a rest and digest state by activating the vagus nerve.

 

18. Eating in a relaxed state

Don’t eat breakfast in a rush, lunches at your desk, or dinner in front of the computer. Having a meal in a stressful environment when you are running late, working or not focussing on the meal can have long-lasting and damaging effects. It is important to eat in a relaxed state, in a calm and peaceful environment. Remember – Choose good food, Chew your food well, and Chill. Choose, Chew, Chill.

 

19. Chewing your food well

The simple act of chewing your food, activates the stomach to release acid, tastebuds to taste the foods well, bile production in the liver and release from the gall bladder, digestive enzyme release from the pancreas and gut motility which are all mediated by the vagus nerve. It is important to sequence your digestion correctly and your body will do this automatically IF you start the process correctly. You must take the time to chew your food to the point that it is soft and mushy in your mouth, before your swallow. Doing this will set the correct sequence of digestion in motion and allow the vagus nerve to perform its functions correctly.

Your state of digestion, rest and recovery are all mediated by the vagus nerve. Following these exercises and habits will not only make you feel better, it will allow you to experience the world in a relaxed, calm and enjoyable state. Happy gargling!!

Should I Eat Organic?

“Organic food is expensive.” I hear this comment daily when I speak with patients, colleagues and friends. Is it even possible to always eat completely organic?

In our daily lives, it is not always possible to make the best choices in terms of food. Nobody understands this better than an entrepreneur, chiropractor and owner of multiple businesses. We have hectic lives and if you have kids and parents to take care of, we can often feel like there just aren’t enough hours in the day to make great food at home on a daily basis. Choosing high quality foods when you grocery shop is also not easy, but it is possible if you know what to look for.

What does Organic even mean?

I’m sure we have all heard about the use of pesticides and genetically modified organism (GMO) crops that are growing in usage throughout North America especially.

Organic foods generally are foods that have not been genetically modified to withstand the effect of herbicide and pesticide sprays. Organic foods are those that have not been sprayed with pesticides and herbicides. The most commonly known example of this practice is the company Monsanto, which uses genetically modified seeds of corn, soybean and other crops, and sprays them with their own herbicide product called Roundup.

The main ingredient in Roundup is a chemical called Glyphosate. Glyphosate actively is used to kill weeds and grasses that compete for soil usage with crops that are being grown by farmers.

Glyphosate has been linked to many health conditions since its usage started in 1996 when glyphosate resistant crops were introduced in the US. The health conditions implicated include a nearly exact correlation with Autism, Alzheimer’s, Obesity, Diabetes and Autoimmune diseases. It is not unreasonable to assume that these chemicals could potentially be a significant source of chronic health conditions. For this reason, it would be best to purchase organic produce when you are shopping for groceries.

Do I need to buy everything Organic?

Some vegetables and crops have been found to contain more pesticide and herbicide than others. The Environmental Working Group (www.ewg.org) has created a list of foods that are highest and lowest in pesticide and herbicide residues. They have called these lists the “Dirty Dozen” and the “Clean Fifteen”.

Dirty Dozen:

  • Apples
  • Celery
  • Sweet Bell Peppers
  • Peaches
  • Strawberries
  • Nectarines
  • Grapes
  • Spinach
  • Lettuce
  • Cucumbers
  • Blueberries
  • Potatoes

Clean Fifteen:

  • Onions
  • Sweet Corn
  • Pineapples
  • Avocado
  • Cabbage
  • Sweet Peas
  • Asparagus
  • Mangoes
  • Eggplant
  • Kiwi
  • Cantaloupe
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Grapefruit
  • Watermelon
  • Mushrooms

Use this list as a resource to direct you when you are buying your groceries. This is an easy way to keep your expenses down and to ensure that you are feeding your families the cleanest foods possible. Ideally, most of your foods should be purchased organic, but this list is a great resource to use if you are not ready to go all the way just yet.

If you think organic food is expensive, just think of it as an investment, so you don’t need to spend money on huge healthcare bills when you are older.

Happy Grocery Shopping!

Overcoming B12 Deficiency

Many people suffer from fatigue, low mood, brain fog and lack of motivation. One of the most common reasons for these symptoms is a deficiency in Vitamin B12. This vitamin is an essential nutrient for humans, meaning that we cannot produce it in our own bodies, thus we are required to take it in through a dietary source. It is estimated that up to 40% of North Americans are deficient in vitamin B12, and it is incredibly common in those people who have been diagnosed with Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

The most common symptoms of B12 deficiency are fatigue, mental and brain fog, depression, anemia (red blood cell, white blood cell and platelet) and neuropathy. There are some simple tests that your doctor can do to determine if you have a cellular B12 deficiency. Serum B12 is not a good enough marker of B12 function as the effect of B12 occurs in the cells. Ask your doctor for an Intracellular B12 test. If your doctor is unable to perform this test, then Methylmalonic Acid and Homocysteine are other indirect measures of B12. They are not as accurate but these are other options that exist.

Vitamin B12 is most bioavailable (meaning the most usable form of this vitamin is) from dietary meat sources. One of the most important things we need meat for is Vitamin B12. Vegetarian sources of B12 are very rare and not readily available around the world.

A deficiency in vitamin B12 can be caused by any of the following:

Pernicious Anemia

This is an autoimmune condition in which our immune system attacks the cells in our stomach that produce stomach acid and an important protein called Intrinsic Factor (IF). If these cells (called Parietal cells) are being attacked by immune cells, they cannot readily produce Hydrochloric Acid  thus our body cannot separate the vitamin B12 molecule from other dietary molecules. IF is used to transport vitamin B12 across the intestinal cells into the bloodstream but if these cells cannot produce enough IF, then we are unable to absorb the B12, leading to cellular deficiency. This is a very common condition in vegetarians who are not supplementing with good quality B12 supplements.

Autoimmune conditions most commonly begin in the gut through Intestinal Hyperpermeability, or Leaky Gut syndrome.

Leaky Gut Syndrome

There are multiple causes of Intestinal Hyperpermeability, aka Leaky Gut Syndrome. Some of the most common are gluten sensitivity, dairy protein sensitivity, parasitic infection, H. pylori and other small intestinal bacterial infections. These issues produce proteins that break down the walls of our gut lining, thus allowing toxins and other molecules to enter our bloodstream, leading to overactivation of our immune systems. It also leads to the decreased ability to properly absorb vitamin B12 from the gut.

Getting tested to determine your gut health is a great way to determine if you are suffering from this condition, however you can also simply cut out the grain, dairy, processed and high sugar foods from your diet to help improve your gut health.

Poor Gut Microbiome

The good bacteria in our intestinal tract help us to break down foods and absorb important nutrients into our bloodstream. If the population of our gut bacteria is imbalanced (too much bad bacteria, too much or too little good bacteria), then this can lead to improper absorption of important nutrients including Vitamin B12. Your microbiome population is determined by the amount of sugar and probiotic rich foods you eat. It is important to reduce the amount of sugar and increase vegetables to help combat bad bacterial growth.

Heartburn Medication

One of the most common symptoms of gluten sensitivity and digestive issues is heartburn. Prescribed and OTC heartburn medications can cause a reduction in Parietal Cell activity, thus decreasing stomach acid and intrinsic factor levels.

It is far more important to determine the cause of the heartburn rather than simply masking the symptoms with a medication.

Chemotherapy Treatment

One of the most common side-effects of chemotherapy is a vitamin deficiency, specifically of B12 and Folic Acid. Chemotherapeutic medications cause an irritation of gut and stomach cells and can have effects very similar to those listed above. It can be very effective for those undergoing chemotherapy treatment to supplement with higher doses of B12 and Folic Acid to help battle this deficiency.

WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT

This is all good to know, now what steps can you take if you are deficient in Vitamin B12?

  • Eat more meat

The best sources are wild caught fish, free range chicken, lamb and sheep meat. Other good options include chicken liver, beef liver, grass fed beef and some raw dairy products like Kefir.

  • Supplements

The best supplement source of Vitamin B12 is Methylcobalamin, however Cyanocobalamin is another good option. Please speak with your doctor or a functional medicine practitioner before starting a supplement routine. These are also a great option for vegetarians who do not want to deal with B12 deficiency symptoms.

  • Good Quality Probiotics

It is important to have a good microbiome population as it helps you to absorb Vitamin B12 as necessary. Try eating good probiotic foods such as Kefir, cultured vegetables like Sauerkraut and Kimchi, Kombucha, Coconut Kefir (dairy free option), pickles and dark chocolate. A high quality probiotic supplement can also be very effective.

  • Reduce Inflammatory Foods

Cut down on foods that increase gut and cellular inflammation, including processed, packaged and prepared foods, margarine, fried foods, low quality meats, sugars, food additives, synthetic sweeteners, iodized salt, dairy and wheat and other grains.

  • Desiccated Liver Supplement

For those of you who don’t like the taste of liver, supplementing with a desiccated liver supplement is a good option for food sources of liver.

Blood Sugar Control

There are many steps required in the control of blood sugar. This video goes over the steps that are essential to keep our blood sugar at optimal levels and the nutrients we may be deficient in, leading to diabetes, insulin resistance and high blood glucose levels.

Getting Better Sleep

When was the last time you woke up feeling completely rested?

One of the greatest detriments to a person’s health is a poor rest and recovery routine. Getting the correct quantity and quality of sleep on a daily basis and making that into a routine can go a long way to helping with many of the health challenges that people often face. Poor sleep routines are associated with chronic pain, adrenal fatigue, hormonal imbalances, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, thyroid dysfunction, weight gain and obesity to name just a few.

Our bodies run on a natural pattern called the Circadian Rhythm. Our sleep and wake patterns are governed by our Circadian Rhythm, thus they affect our daily energy levels and motivation.

There are some steps that we can take starting immediately to improve alignment with our Circadian Rhythm, here are just a few.

  1. Fall asleep and wake up at the same time every day (yes, this includes weekends)

A routine for sleep and waking times is the best way to ensure your body finds a rhythm and sticks with it. This rhythm should mimic the rise and set of the sun as release of hormones are linked to exposure to sunlight. A good routine would be to fall asleep at 10pm and wake up at 6am, giving you 8 full hours of sleep.

  1. Get some mid-day sunlight

Exposure to sunlight governs the release of our hormones Serotonin and Melatonin. During the daytime, exposure to sunlight will increase the release of Serotonin, while in the night, decreased light leads to an increase in Melatonin release. Melatonin levels are inversely correlated to Serotonin levels – The more sun you get during the day, the better you sleep at night. Go for a nice walk during your lunch time or just take a short break with some fresh air.

  1. Eliminate exposure to screens 2 hours before bedtime

We are addicted to our cell phones, laptops, tablets, televisions and e-readers. These screens all emit light at levels increasingly approaching that of daylight. If we expose ourselves to light at such high levels right before bedtime, our Melatonin levels will not go up, making it much harder for us to fall asleep and stay asleep.

  1. Sleep in a completely dark room

Darkness at night can’t be overstated. Our bodies have evolved to sleep in complete darkness, and it is only relatively recently that we have been flooded with lights to see and do things at night. Darkness will increase Melatonin release allowing you to sleep better.

  1. Avoid excess fluid intake after 8pm

Our bladders are designed to hold a certain amount of fluid. Drinking too much water in the evening can lead to reflexes waking you at night, telling you to relieve the pressure on your bladder. If you don’t take in too much fluid at night, you won’t have the urge to wake up to relieve yourself, allowing you to stay asleep.

  1. Don’t open mail in the evening or watch the evening news

When we are flooded with news and questionable information from around the world regarding conflicts that rarely affect us directly, we turn our brains on to worry in the evening and night hours. This late day stimulation can lead to an inability to relax and decrease worry as you head to sleep.

  1. Don’t respond to email in the evening

Reserve your stimulation time and productive hours to the morning, when you are full of energy and can make decisions easily and readily. Responding to work or personal email in the evenings can be tough as it forces us to think and worry later in the evening, again keeping us from falling into a deep sleep

  1. Settle conflicts before going to bed

We’ve all heard the saying “don’t go to bed angry”. Well that is not only true for conflict resolution, but also for your sleep and wake cycle. Cut down on worry when you are heading to bed. Resolve issues so that you are not worrying about them throughout the night, while your body and mind are in recovery mode.

  1. Practice deep breathing exercises before bed to help you relax

Meditation and deep breathing can help you to clear your mind of concerns and worries before you head to sleep. I like using the app “Headspace” for a 10 minute guided meditation, however you can also choose to perform a short 20 deep breaths exercise for 5 minutes to clear your mind of thoughts and distractions.  

  1. Get a digital filter for your screen

If you use a screen (like the one you are staring at right now) a digital filter can help to eliminate much of the blue light that floods our eyes and minds. A good option is the f.lux program which you can download for free at http://justgetflux.com.

Super Easy Paleo Blondie Brownies

Anyone that knows me, knows that anything related to cake is my absolute weakness. However, cake is a great source of white carbs and processed sugars. So, I found an alternative to satisfy my sweet tooth!

These brownies are paleo, gluten free, dairy free and loaded with coconut and dark chocolate. They are made with coconut flour which is lower in carbs and has more fibre than regular white flour. Most important factor – from start to finish they took 30 minutes!

I can’t take all the credit for these, I adapted the recipe from Ambitious Kitchen!

Enjoy!

Noureen

Paleo Blondie Brownies

Ingredients

  • 1 cup coconut flour
  • 1/2 cup melted coconut oil
  • 2/3 cup of maple syrup – the real stuff, nothing with corn syrup
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk (I used the almond/coconut version)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/3 teaspoon sea salt
  • 5oz of dairy free chocolate, feel free to add/subtract based on your preference (Whole Foods has a few options, Bulk Barn has a chocolate compound)
  • 1/4 cup of coconut flakes

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F
  2. Grease a non-stick baking pan with coconut oil, I used a 7 x 11 inch baking pan
  3. In a large bowl whisk together the coconut oil, maple syrup, vanilla, eggs, and almond milk
  4. In a smaller bowl add the dry ingredients, coconut flour, baking soda and salt
  5. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix until its combined and the batter is smooth. Coconut flour is super absorbent, so this step won’t take too long
  6. Fold in chocolate – I used compound chocolate chips from Whole Foods
  7. Pour into baking pan
  8. Bake for 20 minutes or until the edges are golden brown. The batter may look like its not done, because it will still be gooey, but trust it is! Coconut flour over bakes pretty easily, so ensure you take it out on time.
  9. Wait a few minutes and then score the bars into 2 x 2 pieces and take them out onto a cooling rack
  10. Use a double boiler method to melt some chocolate – drizzle this onto the bars and add the shredded coconut
  11. Cool for a few minutes or enjoy them warm – perhaps with a scoop of dairy free coconut ice cream!

Insulin – King of the Hormones

There is a single important chemical in the body which manages a variety of processes and levels in the blood and the entire body.  This single master control – the king in your hand – is called Insulin, and controlling your Insulin is the key to your health.

When I was 75 pounds heavier, I was not in control of my Insulin levels. I was significantly heavier. I always feeling tired and run down. I was snoring and even stopped breathing at multiple times during the night (a condition called Sleep Apnea). I felt like I needed high calorie, high sugar and caffeinated foods to give me an energy boost at every meal and even between meals. I was not in control of my Insulin, and this was messing with the rest of my bodily functions.

Hormones are chemical messengers produced by certain organs and cells in our body. They are stimulated and secreted in order to maintain a balance of many factors related to metabolism, stress and energy production. This balance is called “Homeostasis”.

Insulin is considered the “master hormone” of the body. It is a chemical messenger which is produced and secreted by cells of the Pancreas (Beta-cells) in response to eating food, but most notably, in response to carbohydrates. Insulin facilitates the movement of all macronutrients (protein, fat and carbohydrates) out of the bloodstream and into our cells for use either immediately, or in the future.

When we eat a meal high in carbohydrates (sugar, cereal, pasta, breads, rice), our body responds to the elevated level of sugar in our blood by releasing a wave of Insulin in the bloodstream, telling the cells to remove all this sugar from the blood and take it into the cells for energy production and/or storage. If this happens occasionally in the body, the response will occur properly. When we are eating high carb meals multiple times per day, our blood sugar levels remain chronically high and insulin needs to be produced constantly in order to keep levels within the normal range. When our insulin levels are constantly high, the constant knocking at the door by Insulin annoys our cells.

If a friend rings your doorbell or knocks on your door asking for a favour, you generally have no problem and will help them out. Now imagine that same friend constantly knocking at your door, 3-4 times per day, asking you to help them with this or that. Initially you would get annoyed. Soon, you may not even answer the knock at the door because this friend is asking for too much and is being incredibly annoying, and so you become less friendly and the favour doesn’t get completed.

The same thing happens in our cells when Insulin is constantly knocking at the door, asking for our cells to do them a favour by taking in some sugar from the bloodstream. Our cells eventually stop answering the knock at the door (Insulin Resistance). This can eventually lead to chronically high blood sugar levels (hyperglycaemia), which is harmful to our long-term health. The pancreas eventually stops producing insulin because our body stops reacting to it. We have lost our master hormone so our body’s hormone system. Our body reacts by many other hormones going out of balance including Glucagon, Cortisol, Thyroid, Testosterone, Progesterone, Estrogen and Leptin as well as their controlling hormones.

Chronically high blood sugar is a major cause of health conditions, including obesity, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, brain and memory conditions (read the book “Grain Brain”), Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, and low sex drive.

Overcome these issues by eating meals higher in natural sources of carbohydrate and other micronutrients like dark, leafy green vegetables, carrots, tomatoes, and mushrooms. Your diet should also be higher in good quality protein like free-run eggs, chicken and wild-caught fish as well as good quality fats like avocado, nuts and seeds. Cook in coconut oil, ghee or butter and avoid low quality industrial oils. Feel free to sprinkle your salads with Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar as well rather than packaged dressings.

Stack your deck by treating the King of the Hormones well. Keep insulin working correctly and cells responding to that friendly neighbour. If you treat it will, your outlook will improve immensely as health will no longer limit you.